Barack Obama is due to sign an order before midnight on Friday to implement $85bn in spending cuts, a move he described as "dumb" and "arbitrary" and that he blamed on the intransigence of Republicans in Congress.
Speaking at a White House press conference after a futile meeting with congressional leaders, Obama warned Americans to prepare for a drawn-out confrontation that could last for months and will be painful for working-class people.
"We will get through this. This is not going to be an apocalypse, I think as some people have said," Obama said. "It's just dumb. And it's going to hurt. It's going to hurt individual people and it's going to hurt the economy overall," he said.
Federal agencies will spend the weekend redrawing their budget plans and beginning the process of